Last week, the Roman Catholic Church gave the title “saint” to two former popes. One was John XXIII, who said, “We were all made in God’s image, and thus, we are all Godly alike,” perhaps having failed to read this: “Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men” (Psalm 12:6). The other, John Paul II, said when elected, “I was afraid in receiving this nomination, but I did it in the spirit of obedience to Our Lord and with total trust in his Mother, the Most Holy Madonna.” He must have missed Psalm 62:5, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”
So, how does one become a saint? There are actually two ways, the Roman Catholic way and the real way. I thought I might just compare the two.
How to Become a Roman Catholic “Saint”
- Die. Then wait for five years OR have the pope waive the five years rule. But you have to be dead either way.
- Have an “Actor Causae” (diocese, parish, congregation, etc) petition the local bishop where you died for your sainthood process to begin.
- Get the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints (a Vatican committee) to choose a postulator (an expert in Roman Catholic laws and traditions who guides the process).
- The Vatican must declare, “Nihil Obstat” — nothing hinders. Don’t do anything that will hinder. (Apparently, it does not “hinder” to preside over an organisation that hid the abuse of thousands and allowed perverted priests to target new victims.)
- Now you are a “Servant of God.” (Hebrews 9:14 says living people serve a living God, but in the Roman Catholic tradition, you have to be dead to get the title.)
- An investigation will find all they can that Rome will like of your writings, sermons, and eyewitness testimony, to form a biography (hagiography?).
- Your body will be exhumed to make sure no improper cult worship has grown up around your body or tomb. (Praying to you is not considered improper cult worship in this organisation that calls itself a church.)
- The Congregation for the Causes of Saints recommends (by majority vote) that you should be seen as “Heroic in Virtue” — you displayed a heroic level of faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. (Charity and justice for the victims of predator priests under your authority is apparently optional.)
- When the pope agrees, he declares that you are “Venerable.” You don’t have a feast day, they can’t build churches in your honour yet, they aren’t even sure you are in Heaven yet(!!!), but people can pray to you. (“Should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?” — Isaiah 8:19.)
- This step is vital. Get a lot of people to pray to you for healing — eventually someone gets well in a way doctors can’t explain, and now we’re rolling. She (it could be a man, but the popes’ three miracles were women — child miracles are good press, too) will tell everyone she prayed to you, asking you to intercede. She becomes famous, you have a miracle to your credit, and Rome gets a press conference — a win all round! The disease and healing will be investigated, and it does have to be something really unexplained (but not everything unexplained is a miracle of God, of course.)
- Hint (this is my own idea, not an official one): Get a head start. Have people pray to you even before you are “Venerable.” The first miracle on John Paul’s credit was years before he was “Venerable,” right after his death, when a nun prayed to him for healing. Don’t worry about that “Venerable” thing. Get them praying to you quickly and you might get an early miracle to speed things along. I don’t know if the hierarchy approves of prayers to people who aren’t venerated yet, but if a miracle comes along, they don’t seem to quibble. Everyone likes a miracle, however dubious the origin.
- Other miracles can do the job. If your body doesn’t decompose, or gives off the “odour of sanctity” (a sweet smell) after you die, that counts. If your dried blood is on a holy relic and it liquefies later, that works, too. But it is really, really hard to prove it when these happen, so they haven’t happened for hundreds of years. 🙂 Your best shot is to get people praying to you for healing. No one understands everything about how the human body works and heals, so if enough people pray for long enough, something is sure to happen for someone.
- Now that someone got healed, you are validated! God did it so everyone will know about your direct access to Him! (If you think this sounds like the teachings of some Pentecostal / charismatic churches today, I think so, too.)
- So you have your miracle and take the next step — “beatification.” The pope declares that you are “blessed” — and now people can believe you are in Heaven! (Martyrdom lets you skip the miracle. It’s like another man-made religion — in Islam, martyrdom guarantees you their perverse version of Heaven and in Roman Catholicism, it is sort of a fast-track to Heaven and sainthood.) Almost there — “…The Holy Father decides on beatification, which is the concession of public worship, limited to a particular sphere” (Catholic-Pages).
- One more miracle after your beatification, that is all you need — you are supposed to have two after you die. But if a pope wants to make you a saint, he can, and John XXIII is only credited with one miracle. He called the Second Vatican Council — not exactly a miracle, and he was still alive, 🙂 but Francis counted it as worth one miracle. Anyway, once the Pope decides you are worthy, you are a saint! “Canonization is understood as the concession of public worship in the Universal Church” (same source).
A canonisation decree of a Catholic saint:
For the honour of the holy and undivided Trinity; for the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of Christian life; with the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and with our own authority, after mature deliberation and with the divine assistance, often implored, with the counsel of many of our brothers we decree and define that (name) is a saint and we inscribe him (her) in the Catalogue of Saints, stating that he (she) shall be venerated in the universal Church with pious devotion. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
How to Become a Biblical Saint
30 …Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
It’s that simple.
- Trust God, or trust a lot of ecclesiastical committees and officials?
- Settle it once and for all, or wonder how long before my “miracles” come along?
- Believe in what God did for me, or wonder if people will believe in my “miracles” when they appear?
- Trusting God’s goodness, grace, and forgiveness, or hoping people overlook my flaws and decide I’m “Heroic in Virtue”?
- Become one of a family of all believers with no particular hierarchy, or play the political games of a corrupt organisation hoping people will worship you after you’ve died?
Isn’t the Bible’s way better?
You can trust in the grace of God through Christ’s death on the cross for your sin as described in the Bible, or you can trust man-invented / man-centric / man-exalting traditions that aren’t found anywhere in Scripture. Those traditions are subject to politics, bribes, potential fraud, and other corruption. They ignore the obvious sinfulness of the best of us — but the Bible’s way tackles the sin issue head-on, solving it once and for all.
I Corinthians 1:2
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,
Good enough for me.